Discover How a Well-Executed Resignation Can Build Your Reputation

Most people already know that finding a new position requires a certain level of focus, tact, and strategy. Many people don’t appreciate that resignations are just as important. 

It is no secret that most lawyers will change their jobs several times throughout their careers. While everyone’s reasons for resigning are unique, resigning is part of the profession. So, how do you resign in a way that not only avoids tarnishing your reputation but also builds it?

How to Make the Most of an Exit 

As you prepare to resign, don’t simply focus on protecting your current reputation. Embrace your resignation as an opportunity to expand your reputation, solidify your professional network, and prepare for the next step in your career.  

  1. As you prepare to give your resignation, recall why you decided to explore the new opportunity in the first place. Having clarity on the factors driving your move will provide you the confidence needed to resign. Conversely, you may not have been looking but had an amazing opportunity land on your desk.  Either way, be clear-headed about why you are departing when you announce your resignation. Also, remember that if your associates and partners were presented with a better opportunity, they wouldn’t hesitate to move on, too.
  1. Next, meet with the person to whom you report. Don’t resign on email or announce your departure to the entire team. A one-on-one conversation between you and your higher-up is always the best way to handle this type of announcement. If possible, meet with your higher-up early in the morning before the day’s chaos sets in.  
  1. Until you’ve met with your higher up, keep your plans to yourself. No manager wants to hear about a direct report plotting an escape behind their back. If they do, any trust you’ve built up over the years may be broken, and broken trust is the fastest and surest way to mar an exit. 
  1. Prepare for questions and different reactions to your departure.  Your current employer may accept your decision to leave, and it may even seem indifferent. Others will have questions about your decision to depart. Some employers may even try to persuade you to stay. After all, your departure will create additional work and expenditures for them. Whatever the response, keep your answers to any questions short and sweet! Be honest while also staying positive. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose by trashing your current employer, colleagues, or workplace culture.  
  1. Express gratitude to your higher-up, any mentors you’ve encountered, and the firm’s senior partners. For a variety of reasons, this is especially important if you arrived as an early career associate. When expressing gratitude, be as specific as possible but keep it brief. You don’t want to come across as obsequious. If your employer supported your training, be certain to express gratitude for the continuing education. 
  1. Reduce the impact of your departure by offering to transition your current cases to another attorney or by writing a transition memo. This gesture will show that you care about your clients, partners, and associates and are committed to a seamless transition.  Since you’ll need adequate time to transition your cases, give at least two weeks’ notice and longer if possible. Your team and higher-ups will be grateful.
  1. Keep nourishing your current network. It may be tempting to go out with a bang, but it is always better to keep the fireworks to yourself. Radical honesty, sarcasm, and boasts about your new position won’t serve you well. After all, your current colleagues will continue to work at the firm, and you’ll ultimately want to keep some of these colleagues in your network. For this reason, when preparing to depart, take the high ground. You may want to send out a brief and professional message to your current colleagues. This is a chance to express your gratitude to your coworkers. If you wish to stay in touch with specific colleagues, send a separate message. 

If you take these steps, the impact could be significant. These steps send out a clear message that you’re a transparent, ethical, and gracious colleague, and this is precisely the impression one wants to leave as they depart. Finally, be thrilled about your new opportunity. While you may feel nervous about what lies ahead, trust your decision, and embrace the next chapter in your career.